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Mr. Kevin Hargaden (Maynooth, Ireland)

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Scripture and the Authority of God
Scripture and the Authority of God
by Tom Wright
Edition: Paperback

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The (W)Right Authority, 5 Feb. 2007
Wright has written at great length about his views on the authority of Scripture, especially in NTPG. You get the impression that when he dedicates the book to Stephen Sykes and Robin Eames, the chairs of two boards Wright sits on, it is more than just a polite nod in their direction. This book seems to be a rapid response to a particular set of issues facing him in his ministry.

As such, it is a brilliant little book. In 100 pages it is never going to resolve the labyrinthine issues that face anyone asking the question "How can the Bible be authoritative" but Wright posts up a few signs in the right direction.

Superb illustrations and turns of phrase abound leaving you very clear as to what the author intends as he steps into a morass of contested terms. It is a superb little book to get one thinking anew on this crucial topic. Accessible to any interested reader. I cannot lay any major faults at its door.

Jesus and the Victory of God: Christian Origins and the Question of God: v. 2 (Christian Origins & the Question of God)
Jesus and the Victory of God: Christian Origins and the Question of God: v. 2 (Christian Origins & the Question of God)
by N T Wright
Edition: Paperback
Price: £35.00

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superlative book to be read for generations!, 23 Jan. 2007
This is serious, scholarly theology. It is not for the faint-hearted. It is a cutting edge historical interpretation of Jesus in his setting as a Jew in the era of the second temple. It is the second in a projected six volume work that if completed, will be regarded with Schweitzer and Bultmann as the most significant historical works on Jesus ever produced. As such, this is not a book for a beginner.

Don't get me wrong however, it is notable for how easy it is to read. Sure, the concepts are huge and the footnotes massive but that has to be taken as a given for such an ambitious project. Anyone with a sufficient grounding in the New Testament and aware of the context of historical criticism could work though this book to their huge profit. It is one of the most substantial books I have ever read and it has deeply influenced my thinking on Jesus, the Gospels and Christianity.

Wright builds on the earth-shattering argument he made in the first volume, NTPG and here tries to show how Jesus came as a Prophet, a Priest and a King. He discusses how Jesus' self-understanding diverges from church piety but equally radically from the so-called objectivity of modern academia. What he restores to us is threefold:

- confidence in the historical investigation of Jesus to show us Jesus and not just his 21st Century portrait painters

- a serious challenge to the hegemony of "skepticism" which dominated the 3rd historical quest, passing off subjective worldview as objective research

- most importantly, a Jesus as human as he is divine. This is a conservative scholar producing a radical piece of research that needs to be taken on its own merits.

The results are phenomenal. His conclusion is as beautifully written as his argument was built. Be warned. If you read the book, chew through its depth you may well will be left facing a very real claim that the Jesus we read in the four Gospels may well be making a claim on you.

Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha
Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha
by Roddy Doyle
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It restored the word "gick" to my vocabulary, 22 Jan. 2007
This review is from: Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha (Paperback)
Classic Doyle. I've wanted to read this book for over 10 years and I finally got around to it this weekend. It is a superb insight into the mind of a young boy, but it is set in a Dublin that has long since vanished and typically Doyle manages to communicate so much through his dialogue.

The book follows little Paddy Clarke as he reflects on life. He is a kid and so the story jumps for serious to trivial in the space of a paragraph. He is a smart kid though so you end up laughing out loud constantly at the scrapes he gets into. I was once a little boy and the unflinching cruelty that their ignorance can bring out is captured superbly by Doyle. This is no sentimentalising of childhood. Clarke is a little brat at times.

As the novel progresses we get to see a child's eye view of the breakup of a marriage and the effect that this has on the world the protagonist lives in. It is done with real expertise. I have read some reviews that had difficulty with the plot-less-ness of the book, but for me Paddy is the subject. He is a boy who is telling us how things are. Of course he won't be able to impose a plot on events.

Its a typically witty, warm and insightful read from Doyle's Barrytown days. You'll love it.

Revelations of a Single Woman: Loving the Life I Didn't Expect
Revelations of a Single Woman: Loving the Life I Didn't Expect
by Connally Gilliam
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not your typical reader. But a very good book..., 22 Jan. 2007
I am neither unmarried, nor a woman. It is clear that I am not the target audience of this book. My wife who is obviously married and also female isn't either. She also has a tendency to hate Christian books. My library is littered with classics that she has discarded 2 chapters in. "They say nothing to anyone outside their constituency" would be her typical critique.

Although this is very much a Christian book, it didn't meet the same fate. In fact, I was intruiged by the way that my wife described how Gilliam interweaved serious, Biblical thought into an easily readable episodic reflection on how she has come to terms with unexpected singleness. The fact that this book is readable should be evidence enough that it is a cut above most of its competition.

There are some beautifully written paragraphs, deep theology and a refreshing willingness to trade in the real world that people live in instead of some pious fairyland that tends to be the territory of most Christian books. It neither falls into the pit of legalistically telling people what to do nor twisting the topic around so that it can be a simple "take it to the Cross" evangelistic message. Instead, it advises trust in a Gracious God in the midst of loneliness, battles with celibacy, and crises over career that comes with not being married when you think you would be. It surprised me that it dealt head on with issues like sex before marriage, lesbianism, masturbation and infidelity. These are usually no-go areas, regretablly, amongst Christian literature.

I do think it was a little American-centric. Even if it is only to be sold in USA, in a global age the editing should have taken account of the readership that would find the book on sites like Amazon. It does avoid the rampant gender generalisations that characterise a lot of Americah writing, which was another very strong point. There were some aspects of the chapter on boundaries that I felt were not as fully formed or as balanced as everywhere else but these minor flaws only serve to show up how good the rest of the book is.

I don't know if non-Christians struggle with singleness in the same way since they don't have to deal with the (often hypothetical) challenge of celibacy but perhaps it is rather a problem of language. Single non-Christians have no framework through which to understand their dissatisfaction at not being married. But my wandering thoughts aside, I would choose wisely who I would share this book with. It deals in such a full-frontal way with the issue from a Biblical perspective that I don't think it would read well in post-Christendom Europe. For Americans, however, this might be the ideal book to have at hand for your single female friends who are struggling; or your hapless male friends who need to get a clue on how to relate to the fairer sex.

Colossians Remixed: Subverting The Empire
Colossians Remixed: Subverting The Empire
by Brian J. Walsh
Edition: Paperback

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Innovative and captivating treatment of Colossians, 13 Jan. 2007
This was the first book I read in 2007 and I suspect it will turn out to be the best. I have never taken such care over the reading of a book; often re-reading paragraphs four or five times to digest them and to see them from every angle. This is a superb book that I cannot recommend highly enough.

The book is an attempt to see the short letter to the Colossians with fresh eyes. I can't overstate how successful the authors (a married couple) are in their intention. By critically arshalling the tools of post-modern deconstruction they show us how politically charged a text it would have been to its first hearers and successfully translate that political message for our day.

Despite its engagement with post-modern literary theory, this is not a book that comes from the Emergent Church. The authors are totally orthodox, in the fullness of that word and this could be read easily by Christians of any shape or colour, Protestant or Catholic or Orthodox. They never clumsily use the key terms that they feel they must utilise to do justice to the case Paul brings to the Colossae churches. So although controversial words like "globalisation", "hegemony", "postmodernity", "realitivism" and most potently "empire" are used, they are expertly defined within clear parameters.

The argument of the book, briefly, is that Colossians was an incendiary political tract that argued the message of Christ was much more than just a series of abstract Platonic concepts to be grasped and internally adhered to but that Christ's claim to supremacy placed him centre in every aspect of life- whether that is how a wealthy person treats their slaves, how a husband treats their wife or how a community of believers relates to an Empire that is inherently hostile to the fullness of their message. These concerns, Keesmat and Walsh argue, are actually prevalent in the western church today and we need to heed the call to be subversive agents of grace in an empire that exists on the back of the majority world who are often slaves in all but name.

I don't want to rehash their arguments in too much detail in this review. It may sound too political to you, too argumentative in the way that I have phrased it but all I can urge you to do is splash out on this book, give it a few hours and then enjoy the weeks worth of thoughts that flow from it. I don't agree with everything they say, you won't either. But their large picture makes for a convincing case, an exciting call to renewed discipleship and a challenge to truly be the people God calls us to be. Biblical, thoughtful and brilliantly written, I love this book.

Peace Kills
Peace Kills
by P. J. O'Rourke
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Maybe he is an annoying git, but a damned witty and perceptive annoying git!, 13 Jan. 2007
This review is from: Peace Kills (Paperback)
Great, insightful, infuriating series of articles by the Atlantic Monthly correspondent, PJ O'Rourke. O'Rourke's schtick is well known by now- he is a white right wing American who does a great job of travelling the world and pointing out how crazy everyone is.

I don't think anyone could fairly call this arrogant however because of his unique style. You can't even start to dislike him because he has you laughing out loud so often. His chapters on America post-9/11 and Israel are two of the funniest things I read this year bar none. He is obviously a deeply educated and very thoughtful writer and this lands a second punch on the reader; in the moment you stop laughing you realise he has made a really good point. Superb collection of articles. Don't buy it if you are uncomfortable with everyone on the morning train staring at you because you can't stop laughing.

Simply Christian
Simply Christian
by Tom Wright
Edition: Paperback

40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An invaluable guide for the Christian and non-Christian alike, 9 Jan. 2007
This review is from: Simply Christian (Paperback)
Alot of the reviews you read of this book on deal with a controversy surrounding the academic research Tom Wright has engaged in that has very little to do with this book. If you are:

a) a Christian who wants to understand the grand narrative of Christianity better and get a better handle on Scripture

b) a non-Christian who wants to educate themselves on what Christianity actually is

c) a new Christian who is grappling for somewhere to hold on to

then this book is ideal. It may not be quite as earth-shattering as Mere Christianity but the comparison stands because over the coming years who knows what influence this book might have?

All the complaints about this book are about the Bishop's academic research into the Jewish context Jesus and his followers lived in and the controversy has to do with a historical question to do with Pharisees and reformer, theological terms like imputed or vindicated and a section of evangelical Christianity that feels very threatened. For most of you considering this book, it is all over your head. Its an academic discussion that has become a popular one because of the very huge success Wright has had in making his case. His writing, even his scholarly efforts (which are published as NT Wright) are accessible to any interested reader. Some people have started with an interest and ended up having nightmares which is unfortunate for them. But their reviews of this book are unduly clouded by these tangential concerns.

This book, taken on its own, independent of any furore surrounding Tom Wright, is a superb introduction to Christianity. He has an easy to read style that can sometimes come across as patronising but once you find your rythym with him you will see he is just guiding you along with care. This is as innovative an approach to explaining Christianity as Lewis' "Beyond Personality" approach was with the famous Mere Christianity. I think it is as well adjusted for Wright's day as Lewis' was in his own.

The great strength of this book is that it takes you from discussions about the seemingly meaningful echoes we all experience in our life that seem to point to something more right through into the complete Biblical story and crucially out again to how it relates to our lives today. It is very readable. You could discuss it in a group setting. You can understand it without any introduction or support. It is well worth the money and the time. I hope you buy it and I hope you enjoy reading it!

Theology: The Basics
Theology: The Basics
by Alister E. McGrath
Edition: Paperback

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If only it actually included the Apostles Creed!, 25 Dec. 2006
This review is from: Theology: The Basics (Paperback)
I got this book as a birthday gift. I already had McGrath's superlative Introduction To Theology textbook. This is a primer for that bigger more expansive book.

"The Basics" takes the Apostle's Creed as its structure and works through the key areas of Christian theology. Faith, God, Creation, Jesus, Salvation, Trinity, Church and Heaven all get their own chapters and once you have read them you will be more than able to start reading some theology texts and enjoy them. It also has, typically for McGrath, a great set of reference appendices at the end that include a glossary of theological terms, the cited theologians and advice on what to do now that you realise theology is brilliant and interesting and relevant!

McGrath writes so well. I love the way he breaks things down in to very clear, easily understood chunks. He does battle with texts by the great theologians of the church so that reading the book introduces you to some of the giants and the way they have played the game. He is fair and evenly balanced without denomiantional or theological bias. It is a classic McGrath work which means its practically perfect.

It is meant to be read as a textbook, or at least preparatory reading for a course and so it won't have you turning the page with excitment. There is no harm in that however because its quiet, undramatic approach leaves you in a much better position to take it all in. If you manage to take it in you will be in a great place to start your theological education proper. Buy without hesitation!

The Phaidon Atlas of Contemporary World Architecture (Travel Edition_
The Phaidon Atlas of Contemporary World Architecture (Travel Edition_
by Hamish Muir
Edition: Turtleback

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book I have wanted for quite a while, 25 Dec. 2006
Such a sweet little book. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in architecture or travel and who doesn't have the 150, the table space or the carrying capability to get the big 17lbs big version.

Organised by territory and categorised by usage, this book collects the great contemporary architectural works into a tasty little package that can fit in your school bag if you are a student or sit on your coffee table if you are a posuer. ;) Its really well worth the money!

It's Not How Good You Are, It's How Good You Want to Be: The world's best-selling book by Paul Arden
It's Not How Good You Are, It's How Good You Want to Be: The world's best-selling book by Paul Arden
by Paul Arden
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.64

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very pleased I bought this, 25 Dec. 2006
I decided to get this book on a whim, after a recommendation from an Emerging Church theologian. I know that is probably an unusual approach to a marketing book but it intruiged me.

Having read it, it still interests me, even if it hasn't rocked my world to its foundations. I work for the Presbyterian Church some of the assumptions that Arden makes about the motivation for ambition need to be adapted and I will spend some time thinking about whether his ideas apply and if so how, to a setting that doesn't have profit or power as a driving force.

The book is short, pithy, witty, to the point and most importantly of all very thought provoking. I have always hated to hear people condemn marketing as an evil and Arden even has the time in these few short pages to put that myth to bed. It really is a book quite unlike anything I have ever read before. I guess it might bear some resembelance to the art of Jenny Holzer but that would be a conclusion I am unqualified to make. I know nothing about art. At least due to this book I know a little more about marketing.

More importantly, because of the way he has shared his wisdom, I know a lot more about the attitudes and approaches used by this legend of the advertising business to pursue success. I especially liked his passages on not waiting for the perfect opportunity and taking full responsibility for anything you touch.

I dare you to not be challenged, provoked and entertained by this cool little book!

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